SQ 943 DPS-SIN C B777-200 seat 15D

We left for the airport two hours before our flight, figuring we’d get there in half an hour, but due to a Galungan parade one of the main roads was closed and the alternate routes were thus jammed bumper to bumper. It took us one hour just to get near Kuta, usually a 10-15 minute trip, but then the traffic miraculously cleared up and we got to the airport a little under an hour before our flight.

Check-in was unproblematic, although I realized only later that we’d been unceremoniously shifted from my prebooked A/C seats across to D/E. Some last-minute duty-free shopping (bottle of Hatten rose wine, check) and a 5-minute breather in the lounge, which is a little tired, but has a reasonable selection of eats, a ridiculous amount of staff and has a noisy little outdoor patio in the “nice idea, poor execution” category… and then to the gate, past the economy class boarding scrum via the business class line. Rank hath its privileges.

There wasn’t much difference to the flight in, except that this time the plane did have AVOD, and (as all ex-DPS flights) there was no Book the Cook service. I neglected to snag the menu, but I had a rather blah baked snowfish dish, while Z tried out a rather reasonable lamb. The meal service was even more abbreviated than last time, with the ice cream replaced by such a generic dessert that I can’t even recall it afterwards. Z noted that the flight attendents addressed her by name, but not me, which may not be unrelated to the fact that my name is twice as long as hers…

The rest of the flight passed uneventfully and, to my mild disappointment, the flight landed at T2. Back in Singapore — but not for very long.

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SQ 946 SIN-DPS C B777-200 seat 15A

As I’d expected, the plane turned out to be one of SQ’s regional models, without even on-demand video. I’d prebooked seats together for us and, as I kicked back and praised the joys of having some space in front of me for once, Z poured rain on my parade by noting that she’s small enough to sit in any seat and has a proven ability to sleep anywhere. Well, the back of the bus is that way, m’dear… but then a stewardess came to distract us with a glass of champagne and a terrible drink of the month involving apples, bitter lemon and 7-Up, and her fear of business class (a rather rare ailment about frequent flyers, I suspect) subsided into a mixture of relief and a wrinkled nose of disapproval when a passenger on the opposite site turned out to be wearing flip-flops and shorts revealing pale, hairy legs. So much for business class being all business.

I had one last surprise up my sleeve: I’d preordered Book the Cook for us and even gotten her selection for it by asking her to pick her favorites off an e-mailed menu without telling her what it was for. Reconstructed from memory, our “Light Lunch” menu was:

Appetizer
Scallops with avocado salsa

Main
Hers: Slipper lobster Thermidor, buttered asparagus, and slow-roasted
vine-ripened tomato, and saffron rice
His: Fish souffle and spicy minced chicken served with pineapple rice and
curried vegetables

Dessert
Ben & Jerry’s Cookie Dough or Strawberry Something ice cream

The scallops were sublime, big and juicy and a surprisingly good fit for the avocado, definitely one of the best things I’ve eaten on a plane. The lobster — originally my choice, but ever the gentleman, I bowed to her birthday veto — was also cooked to perfection, but my Thai-influenced entree was a bit of a disappointment: all of it (souffle, red curry chicken, green curry veggies) was furiously spicy and tasted like something I’d get in a Bangkok canteen for 30 baht, which isn’t to say it was bad, just not what I’d associate with “gourmet”. The Italian wine she opted for was quite tasty, while the German riesling (the only other white on the menu) was sickeningly sweet and singularly unsuitable for my dish.

It’s a short flight to Denpasar, so the meal service was abbreviated, with no dessert/cheese platter or liqueurs (although port was on the menu). But the ice cream was tasty, even though I had to ask for it twice, and by the time Z finished exploring her seat controls, it was already time to descend.

Wahhabalinese Adventures 1: Singapore, part 2

The plane touched down at 5:00 AM and rolled up to the gate at Terminal 3 at 5:05 AM. Changi was quiet, and I was through immigration and customs and inside a taxi by 5:15. By 5:30, I’d reached home and by 6 AM I was showered and in bed.

At 11 AM, my alarm clock rang, and I ran off for an hour of errands and came back just in time to see Z climbing out of a taxi with her rollaboard. Tomorrow was her birthday, and I’d booked award flights to Bali for us in economy… or so she thought.

– Let’s go to the airport a little early — they’ve got champagne in the lounge.
– Really? They didn’t have any last time.
– Ah, but this is a different lounge, in T3…
– Great, let’s go!

We hailed a cab to the airport and stepped inside the departures hall of T3, where I fiddled a bit with one of the self-service machines before realizing that its poor little brain couldn’t handle checking both of us in at the same time. Off to the desk then, where the clerk first told me we’d have to go to T2 but changed his mind after I glared at him, and then I passed Z her boarding card with a flourish.

– Ta-dah! Happy birthday.
– Huh? Err, gee, thanks.
– Um, look at it more carefully…
– Huh? What’s wrong?
– This. <points at “Business Class” text>
Kyaaaaaaa!

And into T3’s arrival hall, where I was impressed by the high ceiling and Z was impressed by the outlets of Brewerkz and the Fullerton Hotel’s Post Bar. Signage to the SilverKris lounge was a little lacking, but we eventually found it, turned left towards the Business side, and, well, damn. It was my first time here as well, and it’s posh, it’s huge, and it’s great: finally a SQ flagship lounge that can compete with the likes of BKK, NRT and ICN. Unlike the single row of food over at the KrisFlyer Gold lounge, the SilverKris lounge has an entire room (hall?) devoted to soups, salads, Western and Asian entrees and, of course, a bottle of Charles Heidsieck’s finest on ice. Z was so taken with the miniature bottles of balsamico and olive oil dressing that she borrowed one to take home, but as we had a full-fledged Business Class meal on the plane coming up, we limited our calorie intake to a healthy selection of rabbit food. The one little touch I missed from the T2 SilverKris lounge was the dedicated bar complete with bartender, but hey, pouring our own glasses of champagne wasn’t too big a deal.

All too soon it was time to head out and across to Terminal 2 by Skytrain, and once paradisiacal T2 now looked small, cramped and scruffy in comparison. Poor Z was feeling distinctly nervous by now: it was her first time in Business Class, and while in the lounge everybody else was businesslike and serious, dressed in power suits or conservative dresses, I was in a T-shirt and she in a tank-top and sarong wraparound. To the gate, through security and the boarding scrum, and then the lovely feeling of turning left into Door A…

SQ 375 DXB-SIN Y B777-200 seat 59D

I hate airport transfer desks: they’re always full of people with bizarre problems flying on bizarre itineraries that made my half-paper, half-electronic SQ-SV mutant combo look normal. This time around, a Chinese guy with a dodgy ticket, a very lost-looking Somali housewife and a pair of Pakistani mullahs had to be disposed of before the frazzled Filipino agent got around to processing me, and even my ticket took a couple of phone calls to sort out.

But eventually I had a boarding pass in hand and I set off to check out the Star Alliance Lounge, which based on the amount of LH propaganda lying around probably used to be Lufthansa’s. For an airport the size of Dubai, it was rather ridiculously small, with seating for maybe 40 and most of all of those taken even on this offpeak weekday afternoon. The full bar looked pretty good and they had rather spotty free wifi, but food offerings were limited to a few miniature sandwich-type things, chips and peanuts and the selection of newspapers was heavily Germanic (LH again?).

Back on the bird, which was coming in from Moscow and hence full of Russians knocking back vodka like it was going out of style. Somewhat to my surprise this turned out to be one of SQ’s regional models with no AVOD, and I understood why the people stuck on this thing for 12 hours were intent on getting liquored up. I’d forgetten to online checkin back in Saudi, so I’d ended up with an inner aisle seat way in the back of the bus, but the middle seat was empty and I could stretch out a little.

We took off on schedule and within minutes were back inside that crazy tail wind: I could feel the plane jittering a little as it was pushed forward and the airshow speedometer showed an amazing ground speed of 1138 km/h! Alas, once out of the Gulf the wind slowed down and meal service started. As I honestly can’t remember what I ate, I’m pretty sure it was airplane food, but part of the blame has to lie on Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, an utterly brainless Hindi comedy of the type that makes three hours on a plane fly past. A bit of laptop hacking later a simple breakfast rolled around (choice of muffin or danish with tea or coffee), and before I knew the plane was starting its descent, with a good half hour shaved off the scheduled flight time of 7:15.